Below you will find the entire transcript of my statement at last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting. I know it is long but I decided that the only way to fully explain, was to insert an unedited version. I do not believe in surprises and it was not my intent to catch the supervisors off guard last night, so I sent 2 emails last week, detailing my questions and concerns about the firefighter funding process and reminding them of the Pitcarin decision of March 2008. The $50,000 in-kind offer to the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust was not permitted due to what could be perceived as a ‘pay to play’ arrangement between the township and Pitcarin. I received no responses to either of my emails.
I had advised the supervisors of my concerns; so my expectation for last night was that they would simply listen and at best, thank me for my remarks. Unfortunately for me, the Keene Hall audience and those watching at home that is not what happened. If one was only interested in the merits of reality TV, than last night was worth watching. As I stated last night, it was my intention to wait until after the first quarter had ended before exploring the process of the fundraising effort. (March 31, 2010 was the announced end date for collection of the fire company donations).
I waited until the fund drive was successfully completed and the money safely delivered to the fire company before opening the discussion on the process. In between the personal insults which were hurled at me, I realized something. It is OK to agree with the supervisor decisions but there’s a personal price paid if you wish to have a differing opinion. At one point, Bob Lamina called Community Matters a democrat blog and told us he refers to it as ‘Benson’s Blog’. Where that came from, I have no idea, but that will certainly be a YouTube moment. (Yes, my husband taped the meeting).
Lamina and Kampf’s admonishment of me using personal attacks and negative innuendos was disgraceful. Following their attack on me, Carol Clarke, a Great Valley resident felt compelled to speak up in my defense and to offer her opinion on the supervisors solicitation of local companies, and the perception by the community (as she saw it). Although a gallant effort (and much appreciated by me) Carol also was viewed as the enemy and similarly dismissed by supervisors Kampf and Lamina. Next Dariel Jamieson took the microphone, determined to seek an apology from Lamina to the democrats in the township and to Pattye Benson. Chairman Lamina retorted that he was allowed to have whatever opinion he wanted, apparently even as chair of the supervisors. Wow, in an instance I was taken back to earlier township meetings over the St. Davids sidewalk issue . . . remembering that Kampf, Lamina and Olson rule the township. They make the rules and once again they are free to break the rules. If you notice, I included Section IX, 902A of Tredyffrin’s Home Rule Charter in my remarks last night. (You will see it referenced below.)
At one point, Kampf referred to the supervisors meeting as a ‘New England Town Hall meeting’ — I have never attended a town hall meeting in New England, . . . are they laced with the same level of disrespect for the speakers? Lamina repeatedly questioned the ‘political timing’ of the fire funding discussion to myself and to Carol Clark. The timing of my remarks had to do with the ending of the first quarter, March 31st, which [by their own admission] was the official end of the Tredyffrin Township Supervisors Holiday Firefighter Fund Drive. I respectfully waited to discuss the process until the drive had ended . . . political timing, I don’t think so.
Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, and Olson consistently held the line that they had solicited as residents rather than supervisors for the Tredyffrin Township Supervisors Holiday Firefighters Fund Drive. But remembering that the cardboard check was presented during a Board of Supervisors Meeting and the members of the solicitation committee were named (Lamina, Kampf and Olson), I am not sure how it would be possible that the businesses did not know that they were supervisors. For those that are interested, here is the solicitation form which was used.
I would encourage you all to watch last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting and draw your own conclusions. I have received a couple of emails from Blair Meadowcroft, writer with the Main Line Suburban who attended last night’s meeting. She is writing an article about the meeting and I will be curious to read her take on it.
Unedited transcript of my statement presented at April 19, 2010 Board of Supervisors Meeting
I would like to address the process of the Tredyffrin Township Supervisors Holiday Firefighters Fund Drive. When the Fund Drive was announced on December 21 Board of Supervisors Meeting with the presentation of the cardboard check, I was as surprised as many in the community. I understood that the significance of the $23,200 cardboard check as presented by Warren Kampf was to make up for the cut to the fire companies that had occurred as a result of the township’s 2010 budget. I was surprised that 3 of the supervisors, Warren Kampf, Paul Olson and Bob Lamina had come up with this idea and with no discussion from the community were already out fundraising. It seemed unclear whether the other supervisors were aware or not of this venture. It was also unclear whether the fire companies had been counseled about the Supervisors Holiday Firefighters Fund Drive. I set aside my concerns and problems with the process until after the first quarter – which as I understood it would be the cut-off for the Supervisors Holiday Firefighters Fund Drive.
We are now safely past the first quarter, the money has been collected and turned over to the Berwyn Fire Company and I would like to address issues and concerns with the process. I should say at this point, that my questions are only addressed to supervisors Bob, Warren, Paul and JD – Phil, EJ and Michelle were not on the Board of Supervisors in December 2009 when the fund drive began.
To receive an official update from the Berwyn Fire Company, I contacted their president Rip Tilden, asking 4 questions. Last week I sent the following questions to Rip Tilden, president of Berwyn Fire Company, and copied the Board on the email.
(1) What was the total amount received by Berwyn Fire Company as a result of the solicitation efforts of supervisors Olson, Lamina and Kampf?
(2) Has Berwyn Fire Company distributed the money to Radnor and Paoli fire companies?
(3) Can you provide a complete list of the donors, individuals and corporate?
(4) Are there any contributions that the fire company can not accept and therefore must return?
Rip kindly supplied me with his detailed response which I have added to my Community Matters blog and also sent to you. The total they received from the Tredyffrin Township Supervisors Holiday Firefighters Fund Drive was $24,400. In response to my question for the list of donors, it was Mr. Tilden’s suggestion that the information come from the solicitors, not the fire company, which would be the Tredyffrin Township supervisors.
When I sent you a copy of Mr. Tilden’s response to my questions, I asked you to add this topic to the agenda, answer the questions and suggested that the public should have a complete accounting of the supervisors fund drive. I received not response to my email to the board of supervisors, nor did I receive a response to my 2nd email to the board of supervisors.
In my email to you, I voiced my concern about the solicitation by supervisors to companies that could be doing business with the township and I cited a specific example from May 2008 and the Pitcairn Company. The same four supervisors, Warren Kampf, Bob Lamina, Paul Olson, and John DiBuonaventuro were supervisors in 2008 and were involved with that decision, as was Mimi Gleason and Tom Hogan. For the benefit of the other supervisors and the public, I will briefly explain. I was and still am the president of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, a nonprofit 501c3 organization. Judy DiFilippo (who was a supervisor at the time and also a Trust board member) and myself attended a press party for the Trust. At the party I was approached by Tony Noce, a VP for Pitcairn Properties. We had information available at the party on the Jones Log Barn and Mr. Noce was extremely interested in the historic rebuilding project and asked detailed questions about the barn. I explained the background and history of the project and that the barn was to be rebuilt in Wilson Farm Park. Mr. Noce suggested that to me that his company could help with their use of heavy equipment for grading, etc. He explained that his company would be building an office building in Chesterbrook and if we could work out the schedule, he’d have his guys bring the equipment over to do the grading and would have some of his people add a few extra work days to help the Trust.
I was delighted with this generous offer and truly excited about the possibility of some real help with the Jones Log Barn project, in the form of an in-kind donation. Remember, I did not solicit Pitcarin’s help – it was offered to me and the Trust. I viewed the kind offer as just that, a kind offer of help and a gift valued at as much as $50,000. We used the offer in grant applications, pushed up the date for the architectural drawings, etc. so as to be able to accept this offer.
About 6 weeks after the offer, Judy receives word at an Executive Session of the Board of Supervisors that the Trust would not be allowed to accept Pitcairn’s in-kind offer.The Board of Directors of the Trust received the following email from Judy from May 6, 2008: (excerpted)
“ . . . Trust Board Members –
1) Last evening in Executive Session there was discussion about Pitcairn’s offer to the Trust. Some of you may know that the Township is trying to negotiate an agreement with them relating to a new office building they want to construct in Chesterbrook. The Board was concerned that there was a perceived ‘conflict of interest’ with their offer to grade and/or excavate the ground in Wilson Farm Park for the construction of the barn, “What did they want in return?” for their offer. . . “
The idea was that there could be a ‘pay to play’ perception because of the final review of the land development project between the township & Pitcairn. Needless to say, I was very upset – I was not on the planning commission, the zoning commission, nor an elected official, and I was not allowed to accept this offer. Warren Kampf was chair at the time and called me while on a business trip in California to discuss the board’s decision. He was absolute that I could not accept this offer because this company was doing business with the township. I knew nothing about Pitcairn’s planning commission review yet I could not accept the offer.
Fast forward 18 months to December, 2009 and the very same people who told me that I could not accept an offer with a company that was doing business in the township (even though I didn’t know it) goes and solicits local companies. Mr. Kampf read off a list of donors at the December 21 meeting of the cardboard check presentation that included:
Devon Horse Show
Liberty Property Trust
The way I see it is the only difference between the Pitcairn/Trust situation and the fire company solicitation is that one was an in-kind offer and the other was a monetary contribution; both could be perceived as benefiting the township. If a business that was solicited by the supervisors during the Holiday Fund Drive were to have zoning, planning development projects, contract negotiations, etc. with the township, the perception of pay-to-play would exist. (This was the argument provided when I debated that the Trust should be allowed to accept Pitcairn’s offer.) Conceptually, there is no difference between the situations.
Comcast is currently negotiating a 15-yr. franchise agreement with the township which expires in 2010, Lamb McErlane is the township solicitor and has an agreement with the township and they were solicited and donated, Aqua PA has a contract with the township, and Liberty Property Trust has had ongoing land development issues for the last decade over Church Road in the Great Valley.
Referencing the Home Rule Charter, Article IX, Prohibited Activities and Conflict of Interest
902. CONFLICT OF INTEREST.
A. No elected or appointed official of the township shall:
1. Engage in any activity or take any action by virtue of his official position from which activity or action the official, or any other person or entity in whose welfare the official is interested, shall benefit or realize a gain or advantage. Such benefit, gain or advantage shall not, however, be construed to be prohibited if the action in question is in behalf of a group of citizens of the township and such benefit and relationship is generally known and acknowledged.
2. Solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, favor, service, commission or other consideration that might reasonably tend to influence that official in the discharge of the duties of office.
3. Seek to influence, directly or indirectly, the awarding of any contract where such official is interested or would benefit directly, financially or otherwise, from said contract. Such action is not intended to apply to actions of a Supervisor on behalf of a group or class of citizens of the township who would benefit from the contract and such benefit and relationship is generally known and acknowledged.
I would like to understand why 4 supervisors in 2008 said that Pitcairn’s offer could be perceived as a pay to play but the same supervisors OK their own solicitation of local companies. This is not about the money that was raised. It is about the process that they used to raise the money – the source of the donations and the encouragement donors may have received/felt in responding to the solicitation.
Why was the Trust not permitted to accept an in-kind offer but supervisors can openly and publically solicit? Why are there different sets of rules applied? Same supervisors – different rules.